All of Dave5's Comments + Replies

Ahh, so that's why companies want you to be "aligned with their mission" so badly.

Right. Between search costs, orientation time on the codebase and business, mentor/team lead time spent teaching, inevitable moderate fuck-ups, and general odds and sods, a good junior developer at a pure software company is accruing negative value their first year, and is net negative until nearly their second.  A bad junior developer is negative EV until you can figure that out and fire him, which can easily take over a year.  Additionally, junior developers will,... (read more)

1Dagon3mo
I want to highlight this extremely good object-level advice. There are a number of topics that are much easier to learn with the structure of college-level classes than on your own. I don't know current curricula well enough to know if "ace the class" is a good proxy for "internalize the topic", but make sure you do the latter. As long as you're there, get the best value you can from it.

In your value estimation, a UIUC CS dropout-turned-founder has about the same EV as a UIUC CS grad, but with significantly higher variance. To what extent is this view the consensus among those responsible for evaluating software talent? Would many of your colleagues instead see the dropout-turned-founder as lower-EV (or maybe even higher-EV), but don't give much consideration to variance?

You've got it backwards.  You want hiring folk thinking deeply on variance, because variance means there is a sizable upside tail.  Finding overlooked young dev... (read more)

1dkirmani3mo
More good stuff, thank you again. Ahh, so that's why companies want you to be "aligned with their mission" so badly. I like making positive impact, and I like making money. Both would be optimal, but either one is leagues better than neither, so under my value system, I would count your move as a very positive one. I've heard this sentiment on Hacker News often, and always chalked it up to sour grapes. Glad to hear that there's some truth to it. Also, I'd be a one-year dropout, not a two-year one, if that changes your evaluation significantly. However, I'm technically a junior, since I took a bunch of classes at UMaine during high school (including DS&A, Linear Algebra, and "ML"). That's perfectly fine by me. If you see me as a potential source of alpha, I'd be willing to help you test that hypothesis :)

>This information is absolutely priceless to me. Thank you so much!

Don't hesitate to ask me anything.   

>I know a guy majoring in data science at Carnegie Mellon that says it's pretty glum there as well.

On an hour-by-hour basis my time at UIUC was about as enjoyable as my time in jail, but that's admittedly a question of four years vs. twenty hours.  My best friend went to CMU, and he concurs. I mentored him straight out of college, was best man at his wedding, and he's now a CTO at a 120-person startup where I work for him. 

3dkirmani3mo
Wow. That bad, huh? I'll probably update significantly on most things you have to say on mentoring and evaluation, simply because it directly impacts my future, and you seem both capable and credible. What I really want to know, though, is this: In your value estimation, a UIUC CS dropout-turned-founder has about the same EV as a UIUC CS grad, but with significantly higher variance. To what extent is this view the consensus among those responsible for evaluating software talent? Would many of your colleagues instead see the dropout-turned-founder as lower-EV (or maybe even higher-EV), but don't give much consideration to variance? To someone who knows that universities operate upon selection effects, getting into a selective college is almost as impressive as graduating from it, but most people subscribe to the mythos that the degree is what matters (as illustrated by the sheepskin effect), which might mean that talent evaluators that read LW favor the dropout more than those who don't.

As someone who evaluates and mentors young software engineers as part of his living and has for about thirty years now, "dropped out of UIUC to found an interesting startup" would strike me as being good a resume' on average as "fresh CS grad from UIUC".  What I would be worried about is the variance. I would grill very hard during the interview cycle, and skip no steps. The upside of the first candidate is at least as high as the second (probably higher), but the downside risks (e.g, that they are just a bullshit artist or a prima donna) are higher. ... (read more)

9dkirmani3mo
This information is absolutely priceless to me. Thank you so much! One way or another, your comment will be instrumental to my career decision(s). This rings true to me. I know a guy majoring in data science at Carnegie Mellon that says it's pretty glum there as well.
Interpersonal Entanglement

is there any aspect of human existence as complicated as romance

Yes. Parenting and politics. Given a good enough model of humanity, you could probably prove that romance comes in precisely third after those two. Unlike romance, it's not even all that sensible to consider those two with non-sentient NPCs, a sign of their inherent complexity. Otherwise, good argument.

I'm coming in late, but I will say that you should probably examine the game-design literature. They are (for good commercial and aesthetic reasons) pretty much in line with your theory of fun, and in some ways advanced of it.

Recursive Self-Improvement

The problem, as I see it, is that you can't take bits out of a running piece of software and replace them with other bits, and have them still work, unless said piece of software is trivial.

The capacity to do in-place updates of running software components dates back to at least the first LISP systems. Call it 1955? Modern day telephone switches and network routers are all built with the capability of doing hot upgrades, or they wouldn't be able to reach the the level of uptime required (if you require 99.9999% uptime, going down for 30 seconds for an up... (read more)

Ethics Notes

The best solution I've seen to the "nuke in New York" situation is that the torturers should be tried, convicted, and pardoned. The pardon is there specifically for situations where rule-based law violates perceptions of justice, but acknowledges that rule-based law and ethics should be followed first. The codification of the rule of pardon seems to conflict with the ideas of "never compromise your ethics, not even in the face of armageddon" that you are apparently advancing. Thoughts?

Ethics Notes

Because I would give odds around as extreme as the odds I would give of anything, that if you tell me "the AI you built is trying to deceive yourself", it indicates that some kind of really epic error has occurred. Controlled shutdown, immediately.

Um, no. Controlled shutdown means you are relying on software, which should be presumed corrupted, unless you are very sure about your correctness proofs. What you want there is uncontrolled shutdown, whether by pulling the plug, taking an axe to the CPU, shutting down the local power-grid, or nuking the city, as necessary. Otherwise, Hard Rapture.

Dark Side Epistemology

I'm looking for Dark Side epistemology itself - the Generic Defenses of Fail.

Relax. It will be over soon.

We're past that now.

X is supernatural.

X is natural.

You're correct, but it will make people uncomfortable.

You're smart. You should go to college.

5VAuroch9y
Why do you consider among these? It seems like the odd one out.
Dark Side Epistemology

Everyone has a right to their own opinion. When you think about it, where was that proverb generated?

In the words of the great sage Emo Phillips, "I used to think that the brain was the most wonderful organ in my body. Then I realized who was telling me this."

Contaminated by Optimism

In my darker moments, I think that every human political tendency is just an instance of this very problem. Terry Pratchett (our most underrated explicator and critic of both Traditional Rationality and Bourgeois Morality) described it most pithily as "Wouldn't It Be Nice, If Everyone Was Nice". It's most obvious on the left, but can be seen on the right and libertarian tendencies as well.